If you've been following this thread you know how often I've passed through Yosemites high country this year but on the last day of 2012 I realized I hadn't made it down into the valley even once. That's fine by me as I usually only enjoy the valley in the off season anyway when the crowds are minimal, sometimes even scarce. With recent storms and a cold snap there was a possibility of dramatic conditions. If you've ever wondered why I love California riding this is a perfect example of a lunch run in the middle of winter.
With a lazy 8 AM start Gerbings is my best friend in the 32 degree weather at my house, knowing it's only getting colder where I'm going. Remember when you had to be tough to ride in this stuff? Not so much anymore. Two of the three entrances to the park currently have chain requirements, so I opt for the low road through Mariposa.
Wasn't really planning on documenting this ride, just wanted to eat my sandwich by a waterfall and go home. Most of the following photos are snapshots, not much planning involved, but it's Yosemite, kind of hard to not get an decent photo. The road was pretty clear all the way to the valley, a few icy spots but nothing to brag about, then a few miles in the valley it was like a line was drawn that says "Winter starts here" and I'm overcome with an exhilarated feeling from what I'm experiencing.
First stop, Bridalviel Falls. Scene it hundreds of times, but each time unique and this was incredible.
By now the road is a bit sketchy and I can't park many of the places I usually would as the snow is plowed to the edge of the road and I can't get off. To make matters worse the turnouts that were plowed had a solid sheet of ice across them, making them a not so good option. So my stops were limited to the open areas that see lots of Sun as the were plenty clear.
Like this first sighting of Yosemite Falls
And of course my obligatory "Magazine Cover" glamor shot. Have I mentioned recently how much I like this bike and how perfect it is for rides like this?
The Tenere is almost to it's one year anniversary and I'm liking it more.
By now headed towards Curry Village and the road is iced bad enough that I'm letting cars pass me (unheard of in Yosemite) Feels weird to be riding when most of the cars around me have chains on. Last I saw temps were in the 20s and I had ice in my beard.
A few more memories from the valley.
Note the falling ice/snow to the right of the falls, and then look at the full grown trees to the left for scale and you realize what an event it was.
This last shot is so well known because EVERYBODY stops here for a photo, as well as myself many times. But once again things are different this day and it warrants another look. Yosemite in winter is absolute magic.
Off to Cascade Falls where I find a sunspot on a rock and lay out like a lizard while I enjoy my sandwich. It's getting late and shadows long and I really want to be back in the gold country before ice starts forming . I almost felt I cheated myself with such a short visit, but this is winter riding.
Down in the Gold Country I enjoy some of my favorite backroads ( Does "Old Toll Road" mean anything to you locals?
) I love the old west culture and scenery around these parts and decide I needed at least one photo from Hornitos, an old town with wonderful ruins. A few plaques but no tourists, my kind of place. I think my favorite building is one that almost isn't there anymore, No sign or plaque so I can only guess what this old building was, but I like it better that way. How can you not feel like you're at the end of a good western movie?
I contemplate hanging out here until sunset as it's only a half hour away, but with some interesting clouds on the horizon I could see the possibility of an awesome light show getting ready. I'm rollin. Riding faster than I should have been I was desperately looking for the perfect sunset spot when I remembered I would soon cross the Merced river. Arriving with the Sun 10 minutes above the horizon I knew this was it. And it was.
Not since Lassen back in July have I been moved by a sunset like this. Again I knew I was witnessing a life long memory being made. Watching as the colors change so fast with unreal reflections on the water, it seemed almost mystical. Some of this water came over the falls I was looking at earlier in the day.
As the post sunset colors peak and slowly start to fade I pull out me end of the day cigar and enjoy the moment. I couldn't get myself to leave until the stars were out and getting colder quick. An hour or so till home and this was one awesome New Years Eve.